I am currently working on a graphic novel, based on ethnographic field research conducted in Natal in 2007-2008 and 2014. The manuscript is a collaboration between myself, and Dr. William Flynn who is assisting with the visual conceptualization, and Débora Santos, the graphic illustrator for this project.
The manuscript, Gringo Love: Stories of Sex Tourism in Brazil, will be part of the EthnoGRAPHIC series, with the University of Toronto Press.
In this ethno-graphic novel, we follow Bebel and her friends as they negotiate different encounters with foreign men, or gringos, in the city of Natal, Northeast Brazil, in what is commonly known as “sex tourism”. In the bars, nightclubs, restaurants, and beaches of the tourist district of Ponta Negra, Bebel and her friends are part of a complex sexual economy that blurs intimate exchanges with monetary ones. Why do Bebel and her friends seek to meet gringos? What are they looking for, in Ponta Negra?
Based on ethnographic research conducted in 2007-2008 and during the 2014 World Cup, this graphic story addresses the tricky question of how Bebel comes to imagine a hopeful future as lying elsewhere and as possible only through developing relationships with gringos. In Ponta Negra, Bebel and her friends tell stories of hopes, struggles, pains, and pleasures, but mainly, they talk about their desire to “get out of this life”, given the lack of opportunities they experience in Brazil, as low-income, black or mixed race women.
The graphic novel also situates Eva, the gringa anthropologist, as part of the story and thus as implicated in the production of knowledge about sex tourism. As narrator, Eva presents Bebel and her friends’ experiences against the backdrop of various misguided interventions to either rescue them or erase them from public visibility. This ethno-graphic novel thus challenges sensationalist images of sexualized victims and instead points to the larger sociocultural, geopolitical, and economic context in which sex tourism takes place.